Thursday, May 26, 2005

Bruce Springsteen? Not a godol, apparently.

Over at Cross Currents Eytan Kobre writes in a post called 'Empathy' about how our great leaders, our tzadikim are uniquely empathetic and in touch with the needs of the common man. He contrasts them with Bruce Springsteen who writes songs about the working class but is actually a rock star and therefore subject to criticism that he is really out of touch with the common man. About the gedolim he asserts that
This isn’t hagiography; it’s unadorned fact. We live with them, study under them, interact with them, observe them. The throngs at funerals of authentic Jewish leaders are no surprise: they genuinely love us and we love them back.
But then he loses me. I don't know if Bruce Springsteen does or doesn't have empathy or if he does or doesn't do personal acts of kindness. But I am not sure how the following is warranted:
Don’t misunderstand: Producing songs that tell of the misery and mistreatment of Mexican farm workers is commendable, certainly when it gives them a voice and brings attention to their plight, and particularly when contrasted with what preoccupies most other performers and their artistic output. But it’s far, far from aproaching the pinnacle of moral greatness.
Why is calling attention to the plight and misery of thousands of reduced moral worth? Do we really need to diminish others to elevate our own? I have never heard of a gadol who moved to the third world to bathe and service pagan lepers, yet that is what Mother Teresa devoted her life to. Just as her awesome service to her fellow man* doesn't diminish acts of tzidkus from our own gedolim it shouldn't be necessary to diminish the acts of others to elevate our view of them.

*I am aware that there are conflicting accounts of her righteousness. I know nothing about that; she is only an example.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this observation - tzedakah is not a zero- sum game.



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